“Setting out from my family home, I knew not where to go, except that in my vision I had seen the sea. So I walked for some days toward the west, over the great open country bordering the vale where our homesteads were nestled. On the third day, I arrived at a small village in some foothills, the first I’d seen since my departure.”
“The village was called Deguan, and though I’d heard it spoken of by my father, who had done some trading there when I was young, I had never visited. I inquired after the local weather worker, who had known my father, but was told he had departed over a week ago for the sea. The stranger offered me lodging for the night in a stable, which I took gladly, having slept in the open during my voyage thus far. The next morning as I was purchasing more provisions from a local merchant, my host’s son found me. He informed me that a farmer who was a friend of his father, my host, was headed to the next village with a cart, and had room for a passenger.
“I gladly took a seat in the back of the cart of Parcym, the farmer, who was hauling turnips to market in not the next village, but a town several villages over, in the direction of the sea. It was a happy coincidence, which I took as good omen.
“In every village and hamlet we passed through, we would stop briefly to gather news. In each place, I inquired after the local weather workers, and without fail, was told in return they had left for the sea — anywhere from a few days before our arrival to several weeks. Why had the message reached me so late? I wondered. What was wrong with me as a receiver? Had I not yet been ready to hear? It was said among our people that weather working was a gift which came at a terrible price. The death of my father, evidently, in my case. Perhaps, it occurred to me, I was one of the last to be called. But still, I had been called. And heed it I would.
“When at last we arrived in the town of Decaraguan, it had been four full days since we’d left the village, and a week since I had left home after the death of my father. I had never witnessed such a site as this town before. Bewildered, I bade farewell to Parcym, with whom I had become well-acquainted on our long voyage, and laid a rain blessing on his hands.
“I again inquired after the local weather workers, and was again told in return that they had all parted hence for the sea, many days ago. And that, yes, there had been many other itinerant weather workers like myself who had come in from neighboring towns and villages. I appeared to be the last. I was downtrodden at this news, until I met a young lady of some means who was returning with a servant from the market, bearing the turnips of none other than my friend and transporter, Parcym.
“I asked after where she had found such lovely turnips, already knowing the answer. And her servant described Parcym and the cart I had ridden in on. I thanked them, and asked one last time of them after the weather workers, and if they knew of any who had remained. The woman then, whose name was Mekkla, answered for herself. ‘My father,’ she said. ‘He is bedridden, and has stayed behind, while the others parted for the sea. It has pained him greatly to stay thus behind.’
“Trusting me, Mekkla offered to bring me to meet him. I hoped he might have some further insight to give, though I knew also that every moment I tarried, the further I fell behind the others. Would one of the boats I had seen in my vision know to wait for me?
“Mekkla and her servant took me into their house. I had never seen such wonders and luxurious adornments, having come to manhood in a rude, rural environment. Mekkla showed me to a side room where her father, Mesimo, lay in bed. Quite aged, he did not immediately understand who I was, nor why his lovely daughter had brought me there. When, at length, an understanding had been established, he took a hard squinting look at me. ‘You!’ he finally said. ‘You’re too late. They’ve set sail already without you.’
“I explained to him then my vision, and the marvelous sky woman I had seen. ‘The sea road is closed to you now,’ said Mesimo, gravely. ‘But perhaps the sky road may yet be open, if the sky lords will it. Rest here tonight, and at first light of morning, get thee to the dais atop Mount Atmos, and pray to the skies above.’
“I thanked him, and joined Mekkla for a light supper, after which her servant ushered me to a spare room which she had made up for me. I thanked her and her mistress, bowed awkwardly in my unpolished country manner, and fell promptly into a deep, dreamless sleep.
“In the morning I set out to climb Mount Atmos, which began just outside the town, in a gentle slope upward. I slept on the bare face of the mountain that first night, and around noon the next day had reached the dais, a small stone platform with a few raised stairs in the center. I went to the top of the stairs, closed my eyes, threw my hands up into the air, and prayed loudly to the sky lords, not knowing quite the words, but speaking aloud the needs of my heart, and my earnest desire to join the convocation.
“Within a few moments, a wind stirred up, parting the morning mist which had settled in. And as I prayed, I felt from far off a deep, strong current of air, and a sound of whooshing. Before I understood what was happening, I felt suddenly my cloak unfurling behind me, and a feeling of weightlessness, as my body was lifted up, up, up into the air.
“As I soared higher and higher, I sacrificed all control to whatever power held me aloft, as it hurtled me forward, passing over land far below. In moments, I was out over the sea, and far out in the mouth of the harbor, I saw a small ship with its sail set. I knew it was the last of the weather workers who had left the continent for the convocation. In a moment, I was past even them, and knew then that I was fast inside the vision I’d had. I became gradually aware of other such ships setting out from other lands, whose paths were now converging on the convocation, and to which I was speeding now decidedly towards.
“I know not how long I was held aloft, nor how far I had traveled. The feeling of oneness with the rushing air was total, and seemed to last for an eternity. It ended, however, just as it had begun. Abruptly, I found myself descending toward a small island with a very tall mountain, and then alighting on a plateau near its base.
“Orienting myself, I looked off toward the sea, and spied an empty beach below. I fell asleep on the spot, utterly exhausted. When I woke up, a small crowd had apparently gathered round me. They said nothing, but as I stood up, I saw their ships moored in the harbor below, and the boats with which they’d come ashore. Others were still arriving.
“They had already given me a name while I slept. They called me the First. They said they had found me here when the ships which carried them across the seas had arrived on this unknown island, where we now all found ourselves, having heeded the call. They treated me, too, as First in all things — though I protested that I was neither the wisest, most talented, nor most experienced among them. They said it mattered not, for though they had taken the sea roads, I had taken the sky road, and so it was plain that the sky lords favored me above all others.
“We ate and held council, and waited impatiently while other ships arrived, and parties of weather workers from across the known lands came ashore. I was very embarrassed to be now called First, having so recently been last. I longed to be somewhere invisibly in the middle. But more so, I longed to find the woman from my vision, who I knew now with certainty we would find atop the peak of the mountain which loomed above us, and whose crown was lost in clouds.
“I decided then, to assert my privilege as First, and said that we should make haste to scale the peak, and speak with the sky lords — and ladies — who surely called us forth to this convocation. This was an easy proposition to sell to the group, as most of the others felt the same way, and were waiting only for the right moment. It was agreed then any late-comers could follow behind us. We set out at once. A few stayed behind to tend to the ships. A few more stayed to make camp, for this was a good location to do so.
“The rest of us climbed the mountain, even though evening, and soon night, was falling. We pushed on, and by midnight had come to the peak, which we found to be a high flat place, and in the middle found a fabulous lush courtyard. There was magnificent fountains, and peacocks, and a great blue domed pavilion, held up by a ring of purest ivory columns. We looked around in wonder, for as we approached the pavilion, we could see that jewels of inestimable worth were encrusted everywhere, and that the ivory had natural veins somehow of gold and silver running through it, like fine marble.
“As we stepped under the dome, dumbness fell upon us as a group. For there we found three women, of such remarkable beauty that we have no human words to describe. It literally took our breath away, and we stood shyly as children, innocent, before these women.
“One was seated on a marble bench carved in the shape of a hippogriff, a harp upon her lap. Another sat holding a flute, upon a marble bench carved as a sky serpent, and the third stood with her back to us, looking off into the distance.
“They turned around, as one, to regard us. Our hearts, as one, were all pierced. ‘Welcome,’ said the noble woman who was standing, ‘to the Court of the Muses. I am Iluora, and it is I who have called you to this assembly. With the help of my sisters, Lustra,’ she indicated the flutist, then pointing to the woman with the harp, ‘and Ileafa.’
“‘And upon you, oh weather workers, we hereby lay this commission. You shall found an Order, the Order of the Tempest. For a Great Storm approaches us, and for it we must make ready. One and all alike shall be drenched in this downpour. But together, we may yet withstand the deluge.’”